Jesus says, “I lay down My life for the sheep…I give them eternal life.”
᛭ INI ᛭
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
((5. Oops!: Today was both known and unknown.))
Today is full of knowns and unknowns. On the one he and, today was inevitable. A day like today is inevitable for each of us. We’re all going to die someday. Someday it will be our funeral, too.
But no one expected Earl would die suddenly, with so many questions. What happened? Why? We knew we’d be here someday, but not today.
((4. Ugh!: Does Jesus know what He’s doing?))
Does Jesus know what He’s doing? We wonder that, don’t we? We’re sort of ashamed to admit it. We’re ashamed to confess our sin of doubt. We just harbor that feeling deep in our hearts. We keep that thought in the back of our minds.
Each of you in your own way would’ve done it differently. You know how you would’ve handled Sunday. You know exactly how that should’ve gone. You know how today would be different. Earl would still be alive. Or at least you wouldn’t be left with a big question mark. Why? What happened?
So much to know. So much we don’t know. So much we’ll never know.
((3. Aha!: Jesus knows His sheep and how to care for them.))
Jesus knows. He, of course, knows all things. He knew about today. He knew about Sunday. He knows all about it—more than we can possibly understand. When the people of Israel were suffering in Egypt, “God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.“ (Ex 2) But He doesn’t just know His people’s suffering and tears. He doesn’t just know yours today: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (Is 53)
But that’s not all Jesus knows. He knows His sheep. He knows Earl. He knows you. He knows all those who are His by Holy Baptism. They are in His baptismal favor each day, everyday, and also forever—but more on that in a bit.
But Jesus doesn’t just know everything, He doesn’t just know His sheep, He doesn’t just know their sorrows, but He also knows how to care for them—how to care for them in the best way possible.
He does that for all His sheep. He knows how best to care for you. He knows how best to care for Earl, too. He knows what that looks like, too. And in our Gospel reading today, He tells us what that looks like, so that we’d know, too. So that we’d trust Him in the midst of things we don’t know or understand.
What does it mean that Jesus knows His sheep and how to care for them? It means:
JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP AND GIVES ETERNAL LIFE TO THEM.
((2. Whee!: JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP AND GIVES ETERNAL LIFE TO THEM.))
Jesus couldn’t be any clearer in our text: HE GIVES HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP AND GIVES ETERNAL LIFE TO THEM. Jesus isn’t some hired hand who does shoddy work. He doesn’t see danger coming and run away. He sees the danger and runs toward it.
He saw Earl’s and your great need. He knew it from eternity, and from eternity He and His Father hatched a plan to save you. It involved the Son, Jesus, running into the danger. It mean Him giving up His own life for yours. It meant the Shepherd dying the death His sheep deserve. It meant the Shepherd taking on their sins as His own. He knows each one that He claimed as His at Calvary.
Yes, Jesus sheds His blood and goes into death—“He breathed His last,” (Jn 19) too—for Earl, for Valerie, for Michael, for you. That’s the sort of shepherd He is. As the Lent hymn puts it: “The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander; the Master pays the debt His servants owe Him, Who would not know Him.” (LSB 439:4) The Shepherd become Lamb and flocked among us—“Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
The Lamb dies but doesn’t stay dead. Yes, Jesus laid down His life for His sheep, but Jesus says, “I lay down My life that I may take it up again.” And He did! Third Day rolls around, and Jesus comes back to life. He isn’t dead anymore! “He lives, yes, He lives, and will never more die.” (LSB 480:3) “Death no longer has dominion over Him.” (Rom 6) He is the “Lamb who had been slain.” (Rev 5) He holds “the keys of death.” (Rev 1) For Him death is a nap! (Lk 8) And this is the kind of life that Jesus gives to His sheep.
JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP AND GIVES ETERNAL LIFE TO THEM. That means His sheep don’t perish. Their bodies die, but their spirits are with the Lord. On the Last Day, Jesus will send forth the Holy Spirit (Ezek 37), to “raise you and all the dead, and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ.”(Small Catechism, Third Article) Just as Jesus came back to life, He will bring His sheep back to life so that they will live forever body and soul with Him!
He knows His own. “I have called you by Name, you are Mine,” Jesus says through Isaiah. He knows all there is to know about them. He knew their birth and death. “In your book are written all my days, when as yet there were none of them,” (Ps 139) the Psalmist says. He knew the day He’d bring them to Himself into eternal life. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10) He promises. He knew the day He’d die for His sheep. He knew day He’d rise for them. He knows the day is coming (Mt 24:36) when He will raise them from the dead, “by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil 3:21)
((1. Yeah!: Nothing’s ever going to change that!))
And that word from Philippians 3 gets us to one final comfort today. JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP AND GIVES ETERNAL LIFE TO THEM. And you know what? Nothing’s ever going to change that! “No one can snatch them out of My hand,” Jesus says. “My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” No fumbles between the Father and the Son…
Nothing can snatch them out of Jesus’ hand. His own death and resurrection prove that, but now we know that Jesus has all the powers in the universe! “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me,” (Mt 28) He says. He is “far above all rule and authority, and every name that is named both in this age and in the age to come.” (Eph 2) And He uses that power one way: “No one can snatch them out of My hand!”
Yes, Jesus knows His own and His own know Him, and He makes sure they know Him! That’s also how He uses His almighty power. God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. (Gen 1) “Be faithful unto death,” and there’s being faithful unto death!
Jesus uses His almighty power, the almighty power of the Spirit and His Father, too, in order to make it all happen. Almighty power in His Word and water at Baptism—we’re made His sheep. Almighty power in “preaching and His Word” (Small Catechism, 3rd Commandment) and His absolution—we’re forgiven before God in heaven! Almighty power in His Word spoken over bread and wine so that they are His body and blood, and “whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day.” (Jn 6)
JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP AND GIVES ETERNAL LIFE TO THEM. “I will give you the crown of eternal life.” (Rev 2:10) He certainly will.
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!